Debating Southeast Asian Art and History: A Special Panel in Honor of Prof. Piriya Krairiksh
Part 1Session 6
Thu 14:00-15:30 Room 3.05
Part 2Session 7
Thu 16:00-17:30 Room 3.05
- Nicolas Revire Thammasat University
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Avalokitesvara and the Tiger Skin in Maritime Southeast Asia
Sofia Sundstrom Leiden University
The tiger skin is an iconographic feature that can be seen wrapped around the hips of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in standing images from Insular Southeast Asia. In general, there are two styles of depictions, one originating from Southeast Asia and the second considered to originate from Sri Lanka. These depictions began with the ascetic Avalokitesvaras found across the region and continued until the final Amoghapasa Lokesvara images associated with Candi Jago in East Java towards the end of the thirteenth century CE. The tiger skin is considered to be one of the ascetic symbols and has been linked to the ascetic form of the Hindu god Siva. It is used in connection with different iconographic forms including the standing four-armed Avalokitesvara and the Amoghapasa Lokesvara. This paper explores the regional differences in how the tiger skin is depicted, including the placement and orientation of the head.
Dvaravati and Si Thep Revisited
Nicolas Revire Thammasat University
What do we really know about Dvaravati and Si Thep, two early historical polities in central Thailand, stretching from approximately the late sixth century CE onwards? Dvaravati and Si Thep are often referred to in the literature as two elusive and independent “kingdoms” or polities of mainland Southeast Asia. Dr Piriya Krairiksh has even proposed more recently that Si Thep may be the center of the Dvaravati polity. But what does the material and epigraphic evidence support? This paper presents an overview of recent findings and compares different interpretations as well as reassesses commonly held assertions about Dvaravati and Si Thep.
Mon Relic Traditions: Bagan and Beyond
Elizabeth Howard School of Oriental and African Studies
This paper considers elements of memory and time in two bodily relic traditions (sarika) of the Buddha—the hsan-daw-shin and shwe-mote-htaw—initially connected to the Mauryan King Thiri-dhamma Asoka. These traditions are contextualized in relation to the institutionalization of Theravada Buddhism at Bagan instigated by the eleventh century CE Mon monk Shin Arahan as well as the present sustenance of the hsan-daw-shin and shwe-mote-htaw stupas. Myanmar chronicles frame the entrenchment of Theravada Bagan around Shin Arahan but the material remains in Upper and Lower Myanmar point to Asoka. His instantaneous erection of the 84,000 stupas and the promise of the 5,000 years of the Sasana continue in popular traditions evoking the living presence of the miraculous past.
Did the Angkor Thom Gates Have Five Faces? Observations from Zhou Daguan
Pitchaya Soomjinda Chiang Mai University
The Customs of Cambodia (Zhenla Fengtu Ji), written by Zhou Daguan, a Chinese diplomat who visited Angkor Thom between 1296 and 1297 CE, indicated that the city gates were decorated with “five stone Buddha heads”, four facing the cardinal directions, and the fifth one placed in the center. The cosmologic meaning of the number of faces decorating the Angkor Thom gates has changed overtimes. The city gates were first built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII (ca. 1181–1218) and may originally have had four faces, possibly representing Sarvavid Vairocana as embodied in the Sarvadurgatiparisodhanatantra. Later, Jayavarman VIII (r. 1243?–1295), a Saiva king, may have modified the central top finial to add the fifth face of Sadasiva, supporting Zhou Daguan’s observation made in the late thirteenth century. After the reign of Buddhist king Srindravarman (ca. 1295–1308), the top finial would eventually have been renovated once more to represent the four faces of the gods of the Brahmaloka or that of the four lokapalas, guardians of the cardinal directions.
Luang Prabang and Khmer Influence in Upper Laos
Michel Lorrillard École française d'Extrême-Orient
The Lao historiographical tradition places the introduction of Buddhism to the newly created Lan Xang kingdom in the middle of the fourteenth century CE, through a religious mission that travelled from Cambodia to Luang Prabang. Some Angkorian sculptures preserved in the first Lao royal capital seemed to give reason to this tradition—this was at least the opinion of specialists at the beginning of the twentieth century. Critical analysis of the chronicles, as well as the recent awareness, thanks to the progress of archeological surveys, of the extent of the influence of the Pre-Angkorian, Mon and Angkorian civilizations in the Middle Mekong Valley, however, lead us to profoundly revise this opinion. While many archeological remains have indeed proved the establishment, from a very ancient period and for several centuries (prior to the creation of the Lao kingdom), of Buddhist and Hindu sites in the southern and central plains of present-day Laos, the art and archeological evidence found in Luang Prabang appear to be singularly isolated, and their presence in the northern part of the country requires further explanation.
Phra Mae Thorani: The Earth Goddess in Modern Thai Buddhism
Pattaratorn Chirapravati California State University
At the moment before Sakyamuni Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, the God of Death, Mara, sent his troops to prevent this achievement. According to Buddhist texts, the Buddha reached out his hand requesting the Earth Goddess, Bhumidevi or Prithivi (Phra Mae Thorani), to witness his Enlightenment. This action became part of the iconographic representation of the Enlightenment scene in Indian Buddha images. The goddess is commonly depicted in small scale on the base of a Buddha image holding a container of water as an act of offering. In Southeast Asia, however, by around the twelfth century, Bhumidevi had developed a more prominent role; she is depicted in larger scale in both standing and sitting postures. She holds her long hair in a gesture of wringing water and flushing out Mara’s troops. She is the one who conquered the God of Death. This paper investigates the role of Phra Mae Thorani and the transformation of her forms in modern Thai Buddhism.
Tai Stoneware in Mainland Southeast Asia: From Present to Past
Leedom Lefferts University of North Carolina
Louise Cort The Smithsonian Institution
High-fired, non-porous stoneware ceramics are closely linked to Tai settlements throughout mainland Southeast Asia. Large rainwater-storage jars, double-rim jars for fermenting fish, and mortars for food preparation exemplify Tai stoneware products. Therefore, a close consideration of the distribution of stoneware production sites and the uses of stoneware products offers a sensitive reading of how Tai people settled the region and shaped its ecologies. This study focuses on stoneware ceramics made and used by Tai populations along both sides of the Mekong River between Vientiane, capital of the Lan Xang kingdom (modern Laos), and the Buddhist center of That Phanom (the so-called “Middle Mekong” region) in northeast Thailand. It draws upon informative commentaries about Tai stoneware in this area left by Dutch travelers in the seventeenth century and French explorers in the mid-nineteenth century. The paper demonstrates that ceramics serve as a lens for discovering history and cultures.
This panel aims to celebrate the extraordinary scholarship of Professor Piriya Krairiksh, the distinguished Thai art historian, on the occasion of his eightieth birthday in July 2022. A festschrift in his honor is also under preparation for the occasion. The most fitting way to celebrate our esteemed mentor and colleague, who has dedicated himself to teaching and fundamental research on Thai and Southeast Asian art and history is to support further scholarship and debate on the issues in these fields. The panel seeks to gather scholars of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds from the intersecting fields of art history, archeology, anthropology, and history for a discussion of specific areas in which Achan Piriya has pioneered and greatly contributed to. We look forward to an active panel discussion and paper presentations with lively intellectual exchange on some of the central questions related to the art and early history of Thailand and Southeast Asia.